Hearing on effort to rescind SB-2 for Shaker schools is Thursday

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Voters can comment on a petition to rescind SB-2, or official ballot voting, in the Shaker Regional School District, during a final public hearing at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16, at Belmont Middle School.
The first public hearing was Tuesday night in Canterbury.
Article 8 asks voters to rescind SB-2, the form of Town Meeting which involves a deliberative session and a voting day.
"If voters do approve to rescind SB-2, we'd go back to the traditional town meeting," said Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Michael J. Tursi.
At the district's deliberative session, no amendments were passed, leaving the warrant intact for the Tuesday, March 14 voting day, reported Sean Embree, chairman of the school board.
A motion from the floor to cut $1 million from the proposed budget failed on a voice vote, Embree said.
Article 2 calls for approval of a collective bargaining agreement with teachers, including increases in salaries and benefits. The proposed contract has no increases to the current salary scale and no increase to health insurance contributions, Tursi said. The school board approved use of year-end fund balance to cover the first-year cost in Article 2, the collective bargaining agreement, Tursi said.
Article 4 calls for an operating budget for the 2017-2018 school year of $22,475,634, with a default budget of $22,526,566. The proposed operating budget, according to the district, is up $287,085 or 1.4 percent.
The collective bargaining agreement calls for increases in salaries and benefits at current staffing of $356,313 in 2018-2019; and another $359,483 in 2019-2020, according to the budget. Tursi said the district anticipates a 7.1 percent increase in the cost of health insurance in the next year.
Voting day is Tuesday, March 14, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Belmont High School.

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Council agrees to ban on-street parking on part of Warren Street

LACONIA — At the urging of residents and the recommendation of the Police, Fire and Public Works departments the City Council on Monday night unanimously agreed to prohibit on-street parking either side of a blind hill on Warren Street.

Warren Street runs from Pine Street to Opal Lane on what is commonly referred to as "hospital hill."

Chris Browher, a longtime resident told the Pubic Safety Committee that the road is narrow and since it was recently improved the speed of traffic has increased. At the same time, he said that the number of vehicles on the street has grown, leading to more on-street parking. When vehicles are parked on the curb, the roadway is reduced to one lane, which presents a hazard where the street rises about midway along its length. He explained that if a car is parked near the hill. drivers approaching it are confined to one lane, but cannot see traffic cresting the hill from the opposite direction.

One of his neighbors, who lives near the crest of the hill, said that there danger is exaggerated. Instead of prohibiting on-street parking he suggested lowering the speed limit and posting caution signs. He said that without on-street parking it would be very difficult for guests to visit his home, particularly a relative who uses a wheelchair.

Browher countered that "putting the entire neighborhood at risk to accommodate a couple of houses just doesn't make sense." He said that he has had "a number near misses" and added "good luck should not trump good policy."

The council endorsed the recommendation of its Public Safety Committee to prohibit on-street parking between house numbers 49 and 86 as well as a suggestion by Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) to post signs warning of the blind hill and limiting the speed limit to 15 miles per hour.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked City Manager Scott Myers to seek an arrangement that would accommodate the resident with the disabled relative.

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Lawmakers struggling with how, or if, to regulate Airbnb operations in N.H.

CONCORD — By a unanimous vote the House Commerce Committee has scuttled a bill backed by the Travel Technology Association, which represents Airbnb, FlipKey, HomeAway, Expedia and Priceline, that would have forbidden municipalities from prohibiting short-term and vacation rentals and instead recommended convening a committee to study the taxation and regulation of short-term and vacation rentals.

In New Hampshire, Airbnb lists nearly 1,000 rentals according to Airdna, a website that tracks the company's rentals, In the Lakes Region, there are 15 listings in Alton, 10 in Center Harbor, 29 in Gilford, 52 in Laconia, 27 in Meredith, 36 in Moultonborough, 35 in Wolfeboro and 50 in Bristol.

House 654 as introduced was modeled on legislation enacted in Arizona and begins by noting that the growing practice of homeowners offering residential and investment for rent through internet platforms "is encountering resistance resistance from many governments, in the form of zoning restrictions and prohibitions." While stipulating that municipalities cannot prohibit the practice, the bill would allow them to regulate short-term and vacation rentals to protect public health and safety as well as to ensure that operators remitted the rooms and meals tax.

Mike Somers, president and chief executive officer of the New Hampshire Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that vacation rentals handled by agents, usually realtors, have been commonplace in New Hampshire for years. However, with the advent of Airbnb and similar enterprises, which match renters with landlords directly online, has raised fresh issues, particularly ensuring that operators remit the rooms and meals tax and comply with life safety codes. He said that state and local governments across the country have wrestled with these questions for several years without striking a balance between the right of homeowners to use their property as they wish and the interest of government in ensuring the safety of the public.

Somers offered the example of a commercial bed and breakfast, which is licensed, regulated and inspected, next door to a single mother renting a room in her home. "There is a line to be drawn," he said, "But, we haven't found just where to draw it."

The original bill met with stiff opposition from the New Hampshire Municipal Association, which claimed it was an encroachment on the zoning authority long vested in cities and towns. There are a few examples of the Legislature overriding local control by mandating municipalities allow particular uses, These include manufactured housing, workforce housing and most recently accessory dwelling units, all of which were enacted after much study and debate.

The bill defines a short-term or vacation rental as "any individually or collectively owned single-family house or dwelling unit or any unit or group of units in a condominium, cooperative , or timeshare, or owner occupied residential home, that is offered for a fee and for less than 30 consecutive days." In other words, every unit in a condominium complex could be rented on a nightly or weekly basis, much like a hotel, and a municipality would have no authority to designate where such an operation would be located.

A study funded by the American Hotel and Lodging Association and undertaken by the School of Hospitality Management at Penn State University in 2016 found that in a dozen large cities, full-time operators renting multiple units accounted for 40 percent of Airbnb's revenues. However, there is no sign that concentration of the industry has approached this level in New Hampshire.

Last year, the city of Portsmouth drafted a zoning ordinance that would restrict short-term and vacation rental to specific sections of the city as well as require liability insurance, off-street parking and limit occupancy. However, the proposal was tabled, pending the outcome a legislation to license short-term and vacation rentals, which was ultimately shelved.

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